For some reason while writing this, I was imagining Aang and Katara to be like Ned and Chuck from Pushing Daisies only in Avatarland and without the whole "second touch dead" thing. Hm.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar
It was one moment. Just one frenzied moment out of days, years, lifetimes. Even so, just one moment has the power to haunt a man until the day he dies. And haunt it did.
For one moment, Aang wished he had never met Katara.
It made him feel sick and wretched, like he was worthless and ought to be crushed under someone's shoe. Which was actually a foreseeable possibility, considering this moment occurred during his final face-off with Fire Lord Ozai.
But there was no taking it back now. He supposed the intention behind the thought was good, but the thought itself was too awful to speak of.
The Avatar sighed to himself as he lied awake in bed many years later, finding himself pondering that moment for what must have been the millionth time since it had happened.
It hadn't been an entirely selfish moment, he supposed. After all, it was a moment before he thought he would be killed. And his first thought was that he wished he had never met Katara because he knew that after Ozai killed him, he would move on to her. He wished he had never met her for her own sake, when it came right down to it.
If he had never met her, she would still be safe at the South Pole. He would be in an iceberg and supremely unhappy, but at least she would be safe. She would probably be about as unhappy as him, similarly trapped in her rather provincial life. But at least… she would be safe.
That was how he justified that moment. That one moment that had been somewhere in his thoughts for nine years now.
But he knew, despite years of telling himself otherwise, he knew there was selfishness in this moment. That was why he couldn't let it go or forget it.
He wished he had never met Katara, because then he would never know how it felt to lose her.
She had been slipping away from him ever since the first failed invasion. He knew how her absence felt, and that was bad enough. But if she died and he didn't, or if he was losing terribly and really did have to let her go in order to use the Avatar State, he would know how it felt to lose her completely. Bearing that the rest of his life would be worse than bearing the terrible reality of that moment.
That one moment that had changed everything.
Parts of his life might have been easier without her. He could have mastered the Avatar State immediately. Of course, before he knew how to master it, nobody would have been able to stop him in his earlier rampages. She was the only one, always the only one who could bring him back.
Aang sighed again and shifted beneath the covers. He tried to think of how different his life would be without her. But he couldn't. He had imagination to spare, but he couldn't summon to his mind any image of him without her.
"I'm not me without you," he whispered to the ceiling.
Aang glanced to his side. There she was, yawning and disentangling herself from the covers. She opened one eye to shoot him a tired glance.
"Sorry," he said quietly. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"S'fine…" she yawned again. "What were you saying?"
"It's nothing, go back to sleep."
She turned on her side and propped herself up on an elbow. "I'm up," she murmured. "What's on your mind?"
He mimicked her gesture to face her and she smiled. "I need to tell you something," he said lowly, carefully avoiding her eyes.
"I'm listening," she replied, closing her eyes.
"You're going to fall back to sleep."
"No, tell me."
He sighed. "There was a moment nine years ago when I wished I'd never met you," he whispered.
Her eyes fluttered open and he winced. She smiled indulgently.
"Did you expect me to be mad?" she asked teasingly.
"Frankly… yes," he replied, exhaling in relief.
She rolled her eyes, still smiling. "So by a moment, do you mean like a day or…"
"An actual moment," he finished for her. "Like a second."
She frowned, confused. "So…" she began uncertainly.
"So," he prompted, waiting for her to get angry. When it appeared as though she wasn't going to, he became confused as well. "So that's… that's bad, isn't it?" She shrugged. "What… do you frequently wish you'd never met me?"
She laughed a little. "No," she said in as soothing a voice as she could muster through her obvious amusement. "I've never wished that, or anything near that."
"Oh that makes me feel better," he sighed in exasperation, flopping back onto their bed. She laughed again and rested her head on his chest, hands folded beneath her chin.
"Okay, um… this moment," she humored. "Nine years ago, huh? Would that be toward the farther end of nine years or the nearer?"
"Ah, so… the invasion?"
"Hm. Okay. What um… what prompted this thought?"
"I thought I was going to die, and I figured when I did, Ozai would kill you next."
"Oh, so it was for my sake. Why would you think that's a bad thing?"
He didn't respond.
He sighed again. "The more I think about it, the more I wonder if it was a selfish moment. I mean… if I didn't know you, I could have mastered the Avatar State almost instantly."
"True," she consented, nodding a little.
"I wouldn't have gotten in trouble with Pakku."
"I wouldn't have been chased by pirates."
"Ah yes, very true."
He lifted his head off the pillow to look at her. "Stop agreeing with me," he said firmly. "My life would be nothing without you."
She smiled. "Aang, it's okay," she said quietly. He kept frowning at her. "Oh, you're fishing for a response here, aren't you?" His frown turned into a scowl. "Okay, um… how about… my life would be nothing without you too."
"Katara…" he muttered, glancing away.
"No no, I like this game," she teased, glancing at the ceiling in thought and drawing idle circles on his chest with the tip of her index finger. "Um… I'm sorry about the pirates."
"Now you're just making fun of me."
She laughed again, and he couldn't help but smile a little.
"Aang, no relationship is perfect," she said gently. "We all have ups and downs. Whether it's a relationship with a friend or a parent or a sibling… or you."
She grinned at him. "Everyone has a moment or two like that," she continued. "The ups are great, but the downs can get to people. So some of the downs occasionally spring to mind. Don't let it eat you up."
"So I have nothing to apologize for is what you're saying."
"Darn, I was going to say that next."
He rolled his eyes and gave her a playful push, sending her giggling back to her own side of the bed.
"Thanks for the insight," he sighed.
She rolled back toward him and kissed his cheek. "You're welcome," she replied haughtily. "And I don't appreciate the sarcasm."
"Oh you don't?" he replied with an air of great surprise, turning toward her with a smirk. "What do you appreciate?"
His lips found her neck, his fingers found her ribcage, and it was only moments before she was laughing too hard to muster a coherent response.
This was one of those moments that could stick with you for the rest of your life.